Unsung Heros

Lieutenant General Carol Mutter

Lt. General Carol A. Mutter is the first woman promoted to the rank of three-star general in the military. She was a tireless advocate for women in the Marine Corps and served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C.

QUESTION: Why did you join the Marines?
GENERAL MUTTER: Because they're the best [LAUGHS] there's no doubt about that. And the Marine recruiter showed up on campus when I was a senior. I had no intention of going into the military. It wasn't on my radar at all. I was going to be a high school math teacher because my role model when I was going through school was a female high school math teacher. So I was going to school to become a math teacher and the recruiter showed up on campus. And what she had to say sounded pretty good. The only obligation was the ten-week summer training and you actually only had to stay for five weeks of that. You had to give it a good go. Given the opportunity, everyone could go home the first night. I figured I'd go ahead and stay the whole time, keep my options open. At that point Vietnam was going on. I wanted to have an opportunity to serve my country, and it was a three-year obligation and I could always go back to teaching later.

QUESTION: Not a lot of people wanted to do that.
GENERAL MUTTER: Well, this was in '66. I went to OCS in '67. So that was still a little bit early in the war before things got real negative and before there were a lot of concerns about the prosecution of that war.

QUESTION: How did the Marines react to women joining their ranks?
GENERAL MUTTER: Well, when I joined, we were only 1% female and there were no women in the deployed forces at all. So, as long as the women were back in the rear doing the jobs that the men didn't want to do, there was not much of a problem. I was in an MOS, a military occupational specialty, of computers, very small MOS, and you make your reputation early on since we're so small. Everybody knows everybody, so you make your reputation pretty much the first place you go. After that your reputation precedes you for good or for ill. So you kind of go from there. I had one chance where a male gunnery sergeant was not real happy about having a female boss and made it known but we got that straightened out.

QUESTION: What affect did women have on the Marines corps?
GENERAL MUTTER: Well, the women that joined the Marines Corps freed up enough men to form the Sixth Marine Division to go to the Pacific and fight and were really pretty decisive in our winning the battles there and even the war, I think, because of how we were able to put another division in the field, 60,000 Marines.

Read More